In April of 2019, over 6,000 Amazon employees urged the company to release a climate plan and in response, Amazon and Global Optimism announced The Climate Pledge, a commitment to meet the Paris agreement a decade early. The pledge calls on signatories to be net-zero carbon across their businesses by 2040. With over 100,000 fully-electric delivery vehicles and $100 million in reforestation projects around the world, Amazon has stepped up its sustainability initiative, with more progress to come in the future.
Amazon’s Sustainability Goals
In December of 2019, Amazon released its Annual Sustainability Report. The report goes into detail on Amazon’s sustainability goals and steps to accomplish them. Amazon’s main goals with respect to sustainability include:
- Net Zero Carbon by 2040
- 80% Renewable Energy by 2024
- 100% Renewable Energy by 2030
- 50% Shipments Net Zero Carbon by 2030
In 2019, Amazon announced Shipment Zero, an initiative to make every Amazon shipment net-zero carbon. Shipment Zero means that every step of the fulfillment process, from the fulfillment center to the packaging used, to the vehicles transporting packages, must be net-zero carbon. Amazon started shipping the first Shipment Zero deliveries to customers in the U.S. and Europe before the end of 2019. Amazon will begin Shipment Zero deliveries to customers in India, Japan, and other countries in 2020.
Every Shipment Zero delivery begins at one of Amazon’s hundreds of fulfillment centers. In 2018, Amazon ranked #1 in the U.S. by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) for corporate on-site solar installed on its fulfillment centers. Scaling up the use of renewable energy is a critical part of Amazon’s goal to reach net-zero carbon by 2040. By using clean energy sources, such as wind and solar, Amazon is reducing its reliance on fossil fuels to power its fulfillment center.
A Shipment Zero package travels in a zero-emissions delivery vehicle. From one of Amazon’s newly ordered electric delivery vehicles to an electric bike, to an electric rickshaw in India, Amazon is using innovative technology to increase its efficiency and reduce delivery times for its customers.
A Shipment Zero order ships in its own container or in a newly developed carbon-neutral package. Since 2008, initiatives including Frustration-Free Packaging (FFP) have eliminated more than 665,000 tons of packaging material by promoting easy-to-open, recyclable packaging and alternative shipping options that don’t require additional shipping boxes.
Other Amazon Sustainability Initiatives
Amazon is now dedicated to a sustainable future, free of fossil fuel dependence. In order to reach the ambitious goal of Net Zero Carbon by 2040, Amazon has several other sustainability initiatives in progress. While over 60% of Amazon’s revenue comes from its retail business, AWS, white-label products, and other products or services need attention in order to reach Amazon’s goal of net-zero carbon by 2040.
Reducing Water Used in AWS Data Centers
In addition to Amazon’s efforts on energy efficiency and its goal to achieve 100% renewable energy for its global infrastructure, AWS has several initiatives to improve its water use efficiency and reduce the use of potable (drinking) water for cooling data centers. AWS develops its water use strategy by evaluating climate patterns for each AWS Region, local water management and availability, and the opportunity to conserve drinking water sources. Taking a holistic approach, AWS assesses both the water and energy use of each potential cooling solution to select the most efficient method.
Sustainable Products from Amazon
After Amazon recognized a great demand for sustainable products, it has begun working to give its customers access to the sustainable products they want. When Amazon calls a product sustainable, that means it has “a lower impact on the environment, reduces waste, promotes consumer health, protects animal welfare, or has social benefits over conventional versions of the same products.” Amazon is working with many of the manufacturers that produce its private label selection to grow these types of product offerings to provide its customers with the sustainable products they want.
Closing the Loop on Waste
Amazon is working to eliminate waste across its retail operations. Reducing packaging is just one part of this effort. Amazon envisions “a world where customers get to enjoy products for the full length of their useful lives, and then recycle those items so the materials can be transformed into new products”; A “circular economy” that encourages reuse, repairs, and recycling. From donations to recycling programs, Amazon is building strategies aimed at sending less material to the landfill and more material back into the circular economy loop. Amazon said, “its investment in the Closed Loop Fund will increase the availability of curbside recycling for 3 million homes in communities across the United States.”
As a response to employee urges, Amazon set aggressive goals for the coming years with respect to its sustainable operations. With over 100,000 fully-electric delivery vehicles, over $100 million in reforestation projects around the world, Amazon’s shipment zero initiative, and countless other sustainability initiatives, Amazon is setting itself a new sustainability president for other organizations to follow.